“Until recently, I thought, as Hourani did, that the disappearance of the veil was inevitable; I was sure that greater education and opportunity for women in the Muslim world would result in the elimination of this relic of women’s oppression. For decades, in books, op-eds, and lectures, I stood firmly and unquestioningly against the veil and the hijab, the Islamic headscarf, viewing them as signs of women’s disempowerment. To me, and to my fellow Arab feminists, being told what to wear was just another form of tyranny. But in the course of researching and writing a new book on the history of the veil’s improbable comeback, I’ve had to radically rethink my assumptions. Where I once saw the veil as a symbol of intolerance, I now understand that for many women, it is a badge of individuality and justice.”—Leila Ahmed, Veil of Ignorance - Foreign Policy (via almaswithinalmas)
Muslim women’s religious scholarship is seen as sort of a cottage industry: if women study, it is pretty much in the purdah of their own homes or in segregated rooms in mosques or madrassas. If they teach, they usually teach only women. But trawling through centuries of biographical dictionaries, madrassa chronicles, letters and travel books, Akram has found evidence of thousands of muhaddithat, or female experts in Hadith, the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. He has found accounts of women teaching men and women in mosques and madrassas, touring Arabia and the Levant on lecture circuits, issuing fatwas, and making Islamic law. Who knew that in the 15th century, Fatimayah al-Bataihiyyah taught Hadith in the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, and that the chief male scholars of the day, from as far afield as Fez, were her students? (Such was al-Bataihiyyah’s status that she taught at the grave of the Prophet, the mosque’s most prestigious spot.) Who knew that hundreds of girls in medieval Mauritania could recite al-Mudawwana, a key book of Islamic law, by heart? Or that Fatimah bint Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Samarqandi, a jurist in medieval Samarkand, used to issue fatwas and advised her far more famous husband on how to issue his?
“There is a real void within mainstream feminist discourse that has marginalized the very women whom it has allegedly sought to empower and “save.” Feminism is still very much a white woman’s movement and discipline; it has tokenized women it sees as “of colour” in its attempt to be more inclusive and universal. This is not progress: this is not equality. This is a kinder racism: unintentional, and really a part of an institutionalized mentality and epistemic history, but racism nevertheless.”—Sana Saeed (via kawdess)
Sheeba Aslam Fehmi is one of India’s only Islamic feminist writers and one of the few Indian Muslim women scholars who writes on Islam (among other issues). She has written extensively on gender-just understandings of Islam, articulating equality for Muslim women using Quranic arguments. Since February 2009, she has a regular column, tellingly titled ‘Gender Jihad’, in the monthly Hans, one of India’s most respectable Hindi literary magazines.
Fehmi did her M.Phil. from the Centre for Political Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, where she submitted her dissertation on ‘Human Rights And Multiculturalism: A Study of Legal Cases Involving Muslim Women’. She is presently a doctoral candidate at the same centre, working on a project on the absence of a visible Muslim women’s movement in post-1947 India.
Once I started reading the Quran for myself, I realized that my mother could have had a much better deal if she had asserted these Quranic rights. And that is part of the reason for my interest in Islamic feminism, in developing discourses of gender equality using Quranic arguments. Islamic feminism serves Muslim women of all the classes and social location without any jeopardy to their family life, as their spouses have to engage with it instead of simply refusing it or brandishing it as too ‘Western’ to be adopted by a Muslim family.
So this is the great democracy and freedom we’re supposed to admire at work eh?
A societal and media-exacerbated stigmatisation so deep within segments of the population, that it fuels school girls to attack their fellow pupils, threatening and subsequently assaulting them because of their choice to wear the hijab, and their refusal to take it off under duress…
To all the anti-hijab/veil western ‘feminists’ looking out to “liberate” muslim women, and support a veil ban anywhere - this is what you encourage, you fuel a cycle of xenophobia with flawed logic at the base of it, which stokes a fire of racism, mistrust and targeted violence. You can’t liberate a people living their lives a way they choose to do so.
This girl was lucky, she was clearly hurt and wounded, but it could have been worse. All because she stood firm to her beliefs, and refused to bow to xenophobia.
If that’s freedom and democracy, Sarkozy et al., then count me out.
In 2007, women from the Movement of the Indigenous of the Republic took part in the annual 8th of March demonstration in support of women’s struggles. At that time, the American campaign against Iran had begun. We decided to march behind a banner that’s message was “No feminism without anti-imperialism”. We were all wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs and handing out flyers in support of three resistant Iraqi women taken prisoner by the Americans. When we arrived, the organizers of the official procession started chanting slogans in support of Iranian women. We found these slogans extremely shocking given the ideological offensive against Iran at that time. Why the Iranians, the Algerians and not the Palestinians and the Iraqis? Why such selective choices? To thwart these slogans, we decided to express our solidarity not with Third World women but rather with Western women. And so we chanted:
Solidarity with Swedish women!
Solidarity with Italian women!
Solidarity with German women!
Solidarity with English women!
Solidarity with French women!
Solidarity with American women!
Which meant: why should you, white women, have the privilege of solidarity? You are also battered, raped, you are also subject to men’s violence, you are also underpaid, despised, your bodies are also instrumentalized…
I can tell you that they looked at us as if we were from outer space. What we were saying seemed surreal, inconceivable. It was like the 4th dimension. It wasn’t so much the fact that we reminded them of their situation as Western women that shocked them. It was more the fact that African and Arabo-Muslim women had dared symbolically subvert a relationship of domination and had established themselves as patrons. In other words, with this skillful rhetorical turn, we showed them that they de facto had a superior status to our own. We found their looks of disbelief quite entertaining.
Another example: After a solidarity trip to Palestine, a friend was telling me how the French women had asked the Palestinian women if they used birth control. According to my friend, the Palestinian women couldn’t understand such a question given how important the demographic issue is in Palestine. They were coming from a completely different perspective. For many Palestinian women, having children is an act of resistance against the ethnic cleansing policies of the Israeli state.
There you have two examples that illustrate our situation as racialized women, that help understand what is at stake and envisage a way to fight colonialist and Eurocentric feminism.